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1000 Words: Thank you for paving the way

Tuesday, 20 December 2016 12:45 Written by

My thousand words (exactly) for December 20, 2017, is a reminder to The Leather Journal's readers is to give thanks to those who paved the way for who we are today. From time to time I am going to talk about being grateful to these pioneers. Today, specifically, I am going to talk about our Publisher and Editor in Chief Dave Rhodes.

Today is Dave's birthday. In May of 1987, he published the first issue of The Leather Journal Magazine. If you are wondering why I would use his birthday to thank him it is that he has spent almost half of his life, the last 3 decades, in service to the Leather community. His perseverance and dedication have been key in making certain that our histories are preserved in a publication of record.

Now, for the record... there are two different criteria are used to describe a newspaper of record. In the first sense, a newspaper of record is a newspaper that publishes public notices, information that is of interest to a community such as the results of a city council vote, and legal notices. In the second sense, a newspaper of record is considered to be a publication with high standards of journalism, publishing information, which is vital, important, and interesting. While the paper has had many voices over the decades and there have been times of varied content, columns and educational pieces, and periods of “just the facts”, one thing has been consistent. Dave Rhodes’ mission for The Leather Journal has been from day one to provide a printed preservation of the history of our community. I think there is a heart-full dedication to making sure that both of these definitions are met in each issue.

The Leather Journal has reported about the Leather communities particular brand of outlaw lifestyle with its sexually charged tales of an ostensibly endless flight of bar nights, bike runs, charity fundraisers, and title contests for three stupefying decades. He started the paper during a time when North America’s extraordinarily diverse leather community was experiencing the annihilation of an entire generation of men. Our tribe somehow not only survived that plague we seemingly and just as quickly experienced the amelioration of LGBT civil rights to historically unprecedented levels.

Dave Rhodes has created an extensive network of professional and personal contacts throughout the US and Canada which enables the consistent flow of finances and news. It’s this who’s who in the Leather community, it is these relationships that sustain The Leather Journal’s ability to continue being supplied free of charge to bars, adult sex shops, LGBT Centers, spas and Gay Resorts worldwide. For 30 years of selling advertisements to this community’s businesses and supplementing the operating costs not covered by individual subscriptions out of your own pocket, Dave I thank you.

Making the paper available free of charge and in print remains vitally important to every person who works with The Leather Journal. You provide the ability for folks in every area to have access to stories, news and a human connection to and about people who think, feel, differently is essential to letting folks know they are not alone. We exist to allow everyone who wants or needs it a much needed, consistently available association to an outlaw society. The paper continues to serve as a tangible, physical connection between big cities and small pockets of disconnected individuals. Some of these pockets may only consist of a single individual in the middle of Mayville, MO. These individuals may have no access to anyone else who thinks or feels the way they do where they live, or worse yet, they may not think there is anyone else like them, anywhere.

They may discover the paper online, they may pick it up in the subway while at school or visiting family in an unknown city, they may be given a copy by someone who’s seen “that special something” in them…Whatever the reason, Dave continues to make it available for free.

I do not think it is necessary for me to tell anyone how important maintaining a written physically printed record of our history is to the continued growth of our community. The ability to physically disseminate information to others of a like mind … during the current political climate will be tantamount should (when…) the likes of people who are openly supported by those individuals who openly support Bill’s and Laws like California’s Kill the Gay’s bill and HB2 make it into the White House.

While I am not here today to talk about politics, it is important for me to share with you the fact that in 1993, Dave Rhodes stood in a parking lot in Florida armed only with a camera taking photos of KKK members who were in the process of recording the license plates of an event’s attendees. This is the story that solidified my admiration of Dave Rhodes, not only as a friend, but as a mentor – for better or worse this brave man used the tools at his disposal, placed himself between two polarized community to protect what mattered him.

Dave Rhodes today is your birthday, it is three days before the start of this year's festival of lights, and I think it’s especially appropriate to say on this day (we will have the darkest night of the year due to a lunar eclipse) that you have brought not just news of joy and adulation, but 30 years of light and hope to a populace who has been witness to scads of dark tragedy and trying news. I want to thank you for the countless hours you have given to not just the Leather community, but the LGBT community as well.

On this, and every day my friend I wish you a life full of light, I wish you health and sanity. I wish you, my friend and mentor the happiest of birthdays and continued success in all that you do this and every day of your life.

1000 Words: HVTN 720 Hope In the Vaccine

Saturday, 26 November 2016 10:16 Written by

In this Season of America being a negative news generator I want to bring my readers some GOOD news…some HOPEFUL news.

Monday (THIS NEXT MONDAY) November 28, 2016 researchers at 15 trial sites in South Africa will begin to administer HVTN 702 Vaccine Regimen to 5,400 Volunteers who are uninfected by the HIV Virus and 18-35 year old. HVTN 702 is a Phase IIb/III randomize controlled trial assessing efficacy and safety aimed at licensure of the inoculations that would contain a combination of the viral vector containing genetically engineered versions of three HIV genes (env, gag and pro) and MF59 adjuvant. MF59 adjuvant is included in vaccines to help stimulate the body’s immune response through production of CD4 or T-Cells. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CD4). HVTN 702 is only part of the 4th concept and just the 7th full-scale human trial of an HIV Vaccine.[1] Participants will receive a series of 5 shots and be monitored for 2 years. Half of the volunteers will receive a placebo in the controlled study so that researchers can study the effectiveness of the vaccine.

This particular study is the first of its kind after nearly a decade of nothingness in terms of studies revolving around NEW research being launched. YES, we have PrEP, but it’s not a few doctors visits and done kind of deal...

So how did researchers get to HVTN 702?   Results from the test of a vaccine, RV144, on 16,000 people in Thailand revealed a previously unknown chink in the mutinous HIV. The Thai Vaccine only had 31% efficacy and lost potency over time, but the new exploitation was an exciting find for researchers and soon they began to reformulate the drug and have taken trials to an area of South Africa where 1 in 5 people live daily with HIV.

Experts in South Africa say that even results of 50-60% would be sufficient to produce radical reductions in their country where 20% of the population is infected.

I recall in the late 80’s when HIV education in America came to the classroom and I also still in school recall asking underclassmen if it was true that they didn’t teach about it in their freshmen life-skills class like they did for us. It was that quick that the Government in the US and Found “control” of HIV through the use of condoms and “safe sex” and magically the term HIV was relegated to existence as "just" an STD. The virus that killed a generation of men was in and out of “my” educational system in Southern California in less than 6 years.

Just like our schools, the disease has fallen out of mainstream news headlines, with the exception of a few short news cycles over the last 2 years with the advent of PrEP or Michael Whinerstein, you don’t see any news about HIV or AIDs in the news. Yet 36.7 million people are infected worldwide and 1.2 million of those people live here in the U.S. To put that number into words my readers can envision…the 2015 Census put Dallas, TX at 1.3 million people.  In contrast, South Africa has between 6 and 7 million people[2] (double the population of Chicago) infected with the disease.

The NIH paid for HVTN 100 study which involved 250 participants in double-blind randomized administration the regimen. HVTN 100 was not a study for efficacy but of safety. In July of 2016 HVTN 702 was green-lighted for full trial after the studies Chair Linda-Gail Bekker reported at the 21st International AIDS Conference (that) “all the criteria (for HVTN 100) were met unequivocally and, in many instances, the HVTN 100 outcomes exceeded both our own criteria and the immune responses seen in the RV144”.

So, for now (come’on electoral college), it seems that we will be awaiting a great deal of promising news in 2020 when the results of this study are due to be gathered and released. Until then, there are a few other smaller studies and another group of researchers looking at a “mosaic” immunization.[3] that unlike HVTN 702 which looks at a specific strain of the virus that may only work regionally, will take bits of multiple strains and will hopefully work globally against multiple strains of the HIV pathogen.

This year I am thankful for living in a country that may finally see the cost of apathy (golly the cost of that apathy though). I am incredibly grateful for the dozen or so  men and women who I am lucky enough to have started to come to know, that I can look up to while I walk my own path leading the next generations fight.  I am thankful for their examples, their will (or sheer bloody luck...perhaps a little of both) to survive the fights for civil rights and the horrors of the beginning of life on planet earth with HIV.  I am so voraciously thankful for the next generation (Nikko Johnson) and your brilliant outspoken nature and willingness to speak up for not only yourselves but for those less fortunate.  But mostly I am thankful for the three men in my life who allow me to do what I do for this community.  To PuP, Tiki and Dave...This season I am grateful for each of you and the individual strengths you each add to my life.


[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/major-hiv-vaccine-trial-in-south-africa-again-stokes-hope/2016/11/25/188cd56a-b0ff-11e6-be1c-8cec35b1ad25_story.html

[2] There are varying numbers found from different resources the Washington Post states 7 million, the www.statssa.gov.za/publications/P0302/P03022015.pdf states 6 million

[3] http://www.aids2016.org/Media-Centre/The-Latest/Press-Releases/ArticleID/62/New-vigour-in-HIV-vaccine-research-evident-at-AIDS-2016

1000 Words: What's Next?

Thursday, 10 November 2016 12:40 Written by

Yesterday certainly was a day of mourning for my “framily”. I see ALL sorts of views in my feed this morning.  Gay, straight, bi, (a few struggling left wing republicans), mothers, fathers, son, daughters, there are lawyers, soldiers, computer programmers, dog trainers, IT, cigar makers, reporters, artists, teachers and students, and one thing is for certain they are terrified. Each filled with an aching wonderment at the disheartening results of this years presidential election. But once the mourning passes.....what's next. What do we do when the time for action fills our thoughts and deeds?

I have seen the seeds of actions cross the minds and souls of a "council of elders" (said in all gratefulness to their lives and existence at this time) two grandmothers spearheading a movement to create safe spaces.  Another who took us on her journey writing and blogging to keep us all right there with her while she watched another woman’s dreams shattered as the thick glass ceiling tempered with a millennia of white male privileges seemed reinforced by her opponent and his supporters state after state. Don’t forget to reach out and ask these people what you can do for them and their spouses as a community inundates these women with their own nightmares of history re-lived.

Coming from a family of questionable tolerances, I feared this day (never with the current leadership of dt).  I watched the pendulum swing so gloriously, yet swiftly, to the left.  Actors, politicians, stars, politician & stars children and childhood hero’s came out, transitioned and championed for the rights of those who could not speak up for themselves.  I watched as friends in the entertainment industry faced prejudices over the last year or two that once, even though they were out and proud, would not have faced prior to the Federal Right to Marry was granted to all.

24 hours after I heard the news I saw posts by people who voted for HRC to protect this country, who are now reviled by the riotous manner in which many of the left are handling the results of the election.  Incensed by the fact that the leader of the left and HRC herself called for a peaceful transition of power.  

12 hours after the election I finally brought myself to really look at FB, where I saw the emotional aftermath of a community not just terrified but already terrorized.  Children taunted in schools, faces split open after a gay bashing, a firing for being transgender.

There were posts from Mama Vi to Judy Tallwing McCarthy with the question what do we do now?  

Then there was this post.

New Orleans Gay Bar Customers Told To “Get Ready Fags” By Passersby After Trump Election Win

There were thousands of other posts yet over the last 24 hours my mind continued to spin with one question…. “How should we get ready for what's next?”

Throughout the day I saw calls for protests and videos of marches that closed down freeways and high schools. What’s more is I don’t think those actions are going away anytime soon. As a matter of fact I know they aren’t. What’s worse is I see a generation of young disenfranchised folks who OVERWHELMINGLY VOTE HRC into office, yet once again had their needs wants and desires trampled on by aging white men. A generation of everyone gets a trophy that now is feeling the reality of not winning to an older generation of entitled bullies.

A generation who through this entitlement has I feel, begun to force the changes we’ve seen over the last few years.  It was a beautiful strong willed millennial who is responsible for opening my eyes with an unabashed sense of self-worth and I envy their unwavering bravery in standing up to this “ ‘conservative’ omnivore” Mama Hen.  My apology to them is to never be that person again and they are a continual inspiration to use the resources at my disposal to better the world for people.

It is this inspiration, this motivation of my inner mama hen wanting to keep this precious little raptor of change safe that brings me to MY solution. “What tools do I have that will or can better this community?”

As the ideas in my head solidified the answers were clear.  And I feel strongly that they are the same answers for many who will access to this diatribe.  I have the ear of a print newspaper publisher, I run an event and I have a STRONG network of leaders who were around pre-internet, pre-cell phone (coughs pre pagers???).

“But I don’t”, you say... “I’m just me. I’m not a title holder or a producer or a blah blah blah…”. If you’re reading this you have access to use all of this. Every single person who has access to this paper is powerful. You are not alone in your disillusionment, your disgust or your disappointment.  Nor are you standing singular in a pit of lions and tigers in your fight for equal rights.   If you don’t know HOW to use the tools you have access to, well then that is an issue…and one I can happily help you with.  

1) Ask for help. I urge you to take this action and ask with an open heart and then be willing and able to act on the advice you are given. Please don’t be an ask-hole.

2) Network your ideas, and try not to begrudge those that offer advice to change or better your idea. We are all hurting and looking for ways to heal.

3) Take a class/give a class. I will be working over the next few days to create a list of resources for readers to learn about safety in crowds, the how to’s of navigating politics and government, working with organizations like the NCSF and LA&M to preserve rights and history (they go hand in hand kids…if we let people erase our history it’s easier to erase us).

4) I am putting out a call for presenters at Olympus Leather Weekend.  There is already a Navigating Change Class Track in place to teach topics like Dealing with Law Enforcement, Personal Safety, Crowd Safety Strategies, and Knowing your rights.  I would love for a presenter to speak on non-electronic media protest promotion and organization and Igniting a Crowd.

1000 Words: Love One Another

Friday, 11 November 2016 17:28 Written by

What’s Next?  (Warning: there is some tinfoil hat opinion contained in this post)

Passion is next!

There are as many dimensions to passion as there are to love and hate….

The 48 hours following dt’s elevation to POTUS Elect have resulted in some serious grief and mourning… I can count on one hand the people I can say that I KNOW who were not immediately thrust into denial watching the events of Tuesday’s election unfold.  Then almost as quick as the denial struck were posts of anger blaming everyone, Bern-bro’s, protest voters, non-voters, Trump supporters and third part voters were all easy targets for the suffering throngs of die-hard Dems who had such high hopes of a shattered glass ceiling.  And, in any real world scenario (other than the perplexing real life reality show we have been thrust into by red-America) it should have been a walk in the park on a fine fall day. That inconsolable anger has subsequently given rise to a high-tide of nationwide protests resulting in the arrests of 185 people in just Los Angeles on Wednesday night alone.  

There has been open bigotry in schools, on the street, in the workplace.  Cis-Females have begun to talk about stockpiling birth control in a dt controlled country. Young Latinos have been taunted openly in schools, vehicles of transgender and gay Americans have been defamed and torched.   Gayborhoods and monuments of tolerance have been targeted by Nazi graffiti with scrawling painted messages of hate. Grasping at any and every idea my social media exploded Friday with simple ways to assure others that they are safe to approach if they are in danger or need someone to assist them.  The most popular it seems is wearing a safety pin to signify solidarity against misogyny, hate, and intolerance. While I agree that we should take some stand… I have very deep-seated concerns about open signs of solidarity.

Placing a commonly known marker upon your clothing or home or window creates a target.  It not only helps people identify you as someone with compassion, it helps people identify you as someone who is a potential target of hate.  For the same reasons, Americans have been discouraged from displaying flags on their backpacks and clothing when traveling abroad, I would say the same goes for community members who with all good intention have grabbed a hold of the easiest symbol of hope and help.

It will take no time for our enemy to know what wearing a safety pin means. While I would love every person I know to don one each morning, and every evening as they go about their work and play.  I would caution folks to use common sense and be aware of their surroundings while wearing them.  If our blood relations are capable of calling for bloodshed, a perfect stranger may have no issue doing so either.

Before y’all come at me with the proverbial pitchforks, I am not asking people to go into the closet, or not declare your positions.  I am asking you to use your brain and consider all of the potential consequences of your actions AND weigh the benefits and dangers of the potential results of those actions … then act based on thought and consideration rather than emotion and desire.

So what do I think we as a community should be doing?

Be actively constructive, get involved with your local government, get involved with your political party…whatever it is.  Don’t know how?…Google for opportunities, find your local party office and go offer up your services.  

Fundraise, meet  and support politicians who reflect your personal values, then in 2 years support the people those politicians support by canvassing, baking cookies, working social media, whatever the party of your choice needs you to do to effect the changes you feel are necessary.

$upport the free press.  Yes give us money, the B.A.R., TLJ, your local gay rags, Leatherati, Great Lakes Den…again, I don’t care who you support, just do it, we cannot survive on advertiser dollars and we cannot actively report news that isn’t important to our readers outside that which is important to our advertisers for the sole reason we can’t survive WITHOUT our advertisers…still with me? Good. It is that convoluted … and Dave, Loren, Tom, Sally have all said to me at one time or another it would be nice to be a free press…well, a free press costs money.

Can’t afford to give us money? Send us news!  Help us…I know we’ve called for contributions time and time again, but becoming regular contributors of viable information that is more than contest results will provide a source of information that results in viable news…what’s happening in your neighborhoods?  New bar?  LGBT Center offering new services aimed at kink education or leadership?  What events are offering educational classes?  What are the classes and who is teaching them?  Is/was there a protest in your community? What was it about and who organized it?  Contact us with info like this and we’ll help you develop the stories….

Finally LOVE ONE ANOTHER…get to know one another and break bread on a regular basis with each other. In our homes, exchange phone numbers, not just facebook addresses. Know how to contact one another OFFLINE, set up community phone trees.  Facebook and other online mediums are great until someone tells us we are no longer wanted or worse they simply use our own online plans against us.  

Support each other, bake cookies, sell raffle tickets, and get out from behind your computers (says the webmaster and internet journalist). Welcome the young into your spaces, they will need your experience and advice.  Get to know them, and their needs as those differences will most likely be different than your generations needs. Be willing to teach them and tolerate them, you will need their energy and determination. Get out into your bars and night clubs, softball diamonds, and pool halls, drink, fuck and beat each other sideways … Love one another…Get married and hold to one another as if your lives depend on it…plan for the future and live that future together with your community and framily.

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